The last time Jensen had dated…hadn’t gone so well. It hadn’t ended in abuse or cheating; Jensen just hadn’t been comfortable with it. After all, it didn’t turn a lot of men on when Jensen woke up from horrifying nightmares.
Jensen couldn’t even remember the guy’s name; it had been years. It may have begun with a “B.” Brian, Bret, Brad… Jensen couldn’t remember. What he did remember was the breakup, the tense silence over lukewarm coffee as the guy shifted uncomfortably after giving his clichéd “it’s not you, it’s me” speech. Jensen remembered feeling a brief moment of relief before the guy broke the silence.
“Why don’t you look at yourself in the mirror?” Jensen couldn’t remember the man’s face; only the ice-cold jolt of terror that paralyzed him as the guy went on, unaware of Jensen’s internal panic. “It’s not like you’re ugly.”
That much, Jensen knew to be true, but it wasn’t what left him uneasy for weeks after. It was due to the fact that… Jensen didn’t know why. He hadn’t even realized that he was doing it until then.
Jensen still took as little time as possible in front of the mirror. Every time he met his own eyes, a feeling of crippling nausea washed over him.
Steve’s long exhale drew Jensen out of the mess that was his own head.
“You’re overthinking this, dude.” They were both standing in front of Jensen’s closet because Jensen had two hours to pick a shirt and it was like his whole wardrobe had been turned into rags. “Just wear what you normally wear.” Jensen grimaced and Steve huffed. “I could call Chris. He has a surprisingly good fashion sense.”
“No.” Jensen rubbed his temples. “No, don’t—don’t call him.”
Steve raised his eyebrows, then turned back to the closet. He pulled out a nice button-down white shirt with a tank top to go underneath.
“White makes your eyes pop.” Before Jensen had a chance to mock Steve for being a walking cliché, Steve continued. “So I don’t want to be that drama guy, but what’s your deal with Chris?”
Jensen’s stomach knotted up, but he stripped his shirt off anyway.
“I don’t have a deal. I’m glad he makes you happy.” Steve just fixed with him that stare that meant that he wasn’t buying Jensen’s bullshit, and Jensen sighed. “He just keeps trying to be friends with me. He doesn’t have to and it’s weird.” Jensen looked at himself in the mirror and was surprisingly happy with what he saw. “You’re right about my eyes.”
“God, you’re a dumbass!” Steve jammed his hands into his pockets. “Sometimes people want to just be your friend because they like you.”
“Yeah, Steve, but he’s a lawyer.” The silence between them was so thick that it almost made Jensen choke. Then Steve laughed so hard that indignant anger bubbled up in Jensen’s chest. “I’m serious, Steve!”
“I know!” Steve wiped his eyes. “That’s what makes it so good.” Steve already had his phone out, his thumbs flying over the keys. “God, Chris is going to love this.”
Jensen hated his best friend sometimes.
“Fuck you, I’m leaving.”
Steve just waved him off.
“Let me know if you get to second base!”
Jensen slammed the door in a way that he hoped came off as manly and not petulant.
Vivid streaks of turquoise and indigo splashed over Jensen’s white shirt. He looked down at the colored light reflected off of Vicki’s mobiles. She finished up with her last customer of the early lunch rush and headed over to the third table from the door, right where Jensen had told Jared he’d be. Vicki whistled.
“You look handsome today. Hot date?”
Jensen felt his cheeks get warm.
The self-appointed (but rightly so, in Jensen’s opinion) master of tea and coffee’s mouth fell open. Jensen might have found it funny if he hadn’t been so nervous. Vicki quickly recovered and bounced on her heels.
“Oh, Jensen, that’s awesome!” Vicki bumped her hip against the table. “You got all dressed up—that’s so cute!”
Jensen buried his face in his hands, his stomach tying itself up in knots.
“I haven’t been on a date in so long, I don’t know what to do.”
“Hey.” Vicki shook his shoulder gently. “I didn’t say it was bad, it’s cute. Now buck up and tell me what he’s like.”
Jensen peeked through his hands and the knot of anxiety lessened. This was Vicki, bohemian tea queen. She was wearing a long brown skirt with sandals and a flowing blue top. Her hair was tied up except for a few stray beaded strands. She was comfortable in her own skin, and Jensen never saw her put on a mask for anyone. He envied her so much; sometimes he wondered if she could tell.
“I don’t know what he looks like; well, he said he’d be wearing a blue shirt and sneakers with bright shoelaces.” Jensen smiled sheepishly before snapping his fingers. “Oh, and he’s really tall.”
Vicki winked at him.
“I’ll keep an eye out.” She fiddled with the beads in her hair, the mobiles giving her an ever-changing skin color. “If you’ve never met before—oh, you do the online scene.”
Jensen nodded only because it would take too long to explain. He tried not to slouch too much and hoped the dark circles under his eyes weren’t as apparent as they usually were.
Vicki stuck by him, not talking but staying close. Jensen was glad to let her look and see if anyone in a blue shirt wandered by the store. Jensen was about to shakily ditch the teahouse and the date when Vicki inhaled sharply.
“Oh God. Jensen, sweet Jesus—Jensen he’s, he’s just…”
When Jensen looked up, he understood why Vicki had lost her usual unique way with words. The man who walked into the shop looked like he belonged in GQ, not SoHo. He stretched up so tall that he wouldn’t need a horse to be a knight. His hazel-green eyes were bright and eager, doing a quick sweep of the store.
“Hot” didn’t do Jared justice. Hot was juvenile, something to say because of either a lacking or unimaginative vocabulary. What Jared had—the look he’d been blessed with was timeless.
Jensen felt a smile grow and he stood, expecting that his anxious but hopeful sentiment would be returned.
That was when Jared’s eyes finally came to a halt on him.
The tension sent a thin but dangerous crack through the air. Jared’s once open and warm face shut down. His lips pulled down into a frown and his whole body became tight and hard. Jensen couldn’t breathe. He knew first dates could be awkward but this was not disappointment or masked discontent.
What Jared had on his face was a fury unlike Jensen had ever seen.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Jared growled, and it looked so sad and hateful. He glared at Jensen, and Jensen knew that a stare like that would haunt him for the rest of his life. “Unbelievable. Fucking unbelievable.”
Jared turned sharply and slammed his way out the door, making Jensen and Vicki flinch.
August 2nd, 2009
Jared Padalecki yawned, his two dogs weaving in and out of his legs. He rubbed Sadie behind the ears as Harley bumped him with his nose. Jared checked his watch and grimaced because it was already five minutes past the time he wanted to leave, and even Top Chef wasn’t enough to keep him from getting jittery.
“Megan, come on! It’s only one weekend, what more could you need?”
“Coming, coming, coming!” Megan thundered down the stairs in pajama shorts and a high school sweatshirt. “Chill out, Jared.”
It was too late to get in an argument, so Jared just nuzzled his puppies.
“Chad will be here in the morning; I’ll be back soon, I promise.”
Megan slung her bag over her shoulder and, with one final goodbye to his dogs, Jared left with his little sister in tow.
The thing about late-night driving was that it all depended on the company. Alone tended to be boring, but with company, it was be easier to stay awake. Megan clutched her pink iPod and soon filled the car with a poppy tune. Her slipper-clad feet bounced as Jared drove them out of the city. She sniffed, rubbing her hands together.
“So holy shit Top Chef.”
Jared sucked in a breath dramatically.
“I told you the California guy would make it.”
“Steve, Jared. His name is Steve.”
Jared rolled his eyes.
“What, it’s not like I’m ever going to meet him.” Jared flexed his fingers over the wheel, easily taking the exit to the highway. “I hope he wins.”
“Me too.” She glanced over at Jared. “Do you need coffee?”
Jared shook his head.
“Nah.” He smiled at his little sister. “You’ve got enough energy for the both of us.”
In the dark of that spring night, Jared felt content with his life. He was finishing up his last year of med school and Megan was managing to turn into a level-headed young woman. At sixteen years old, she was growing nicely, even though it was only Jared raising her. She drummed two pens against her legs to the beat of the song, her hair flying as she swung her head back and forth with a chaotic elegance.
Jared rolled the window down, letting the chilly air fill the car. The sky was clear and obsidian, glittering with stars.
Some nights, the world seemed perfect.
“Are you going to paint my name on your stomach?” Megan smiled in that crooked, charming way only a teenager could pull off. “I’ll score a million goals if you have my name on your stomach and booby tassels.”
Jared snorted. On the long road ahead of them, the light went from green to yellow.
“For booby tassels, I’m gonna need more than a million.”
The car came to a stop at the red light. Megan rolled her eyes.
“Oh come on.” She pouted, but Jared knew it was only for show. “Why did you stop? It’s not like anyone’s here.”
Megan sank back into the seat as Jared turned to her. The light was still red.
“I don’t want to get pulled over.”
Uproarious laughter filled the car and Megan took time to stop and wipe her eyes.
“By who? There isn’t a cop for a,” she waved her arms around, “thousand-trillion miles.”
This time, they both laughed. It was the dead of night and it felt like they were the only people in the world, driving in that clunky little green Volvo. Megan’s cleats and soccer jersey were in the back and Jared had a duffel bag full of changes of clothes and body paint that he’d managed to keep a secret from his sister.
The light was still red. Megan looked up at Jared.
“What if I score a thousand-trillion goals?”
Jared chuckled and he pinched her arm.
“How about this: If your team wins States, I’ll wear the booby tassels to your first Nationals game.”
Megan gave a whoop—and the light wasn’t red—it was a bright, bright white, that was so close, too close, too close, TOO CLOSE—
Jensen was frozen, the door’s thunderous slam echoing in his head. Vicki was just as shocked, her fingers knotted in her skirt. Jensen’s legs moved, slow and stiff at first, but soon he was running out the door, bursting into the bright sun.
City noise overwhelmed him but Jensen was able to make out a blue shirt, Jared’s blue shirt, in the mid-lunch rush. Jensen ran forward, not caring that he bumped into people as he struggled to catch up. It only took a block, and he chided himself for falling out of shape. He surged forward and grabbed Jared’s wrist.
“Hey!” Jensen felt a small bubble of anger rise. Okay, so maybe he was weird, a nerd, and recently anti-social, and maybe he had nightmares he couldn’t remember that made him dry heave until he couldn’t see straight, but he hadn’t done anything to Jared, besides text and email him. Jensen hadn’t had a chance to fuck up yet. “Hey!”
Jensen tugged on Jared’s arm and the taller man whirled around. Jensen flinched; for a moment, he swore that Jared was going to hit him.
“I swear to God, if you don’t get away from me—”
“What are you talking about?” Jensen’s voice cracked and he felt his hand shaking, but he still held on tight to Jared’s wrist. “I just met you!” Jared yanked his arm away so fast and so hard that Jensen stumbled forward before he caught himself. “What the hell is your problem?”
Jared’s jaw clenched and this time, he stepped up into Jensen’s personal space, and there wasn’t a doubt in Jensen’s mind that if Jared put his mind to it, he could wipe the floor with Jensen.
“I can’t believe you’re just gonna stand there and—”
“Jared!” A woman’s voice sliced through the air and the hand that had grabbed Jensen’s collar froze before quickly releasing him. Jensen looked around, his heart pounding, but he couldn’t find his savior. Then Jared stepped to the side, deflated and resigned. A fierce and confident young woman in a wheelchair seemed to materialize behind him. Her hazel eyes burned as she crossed her arms, glaring at Jared. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
No one made a sound; Jared looked guilty, Jensen was just plain old befuddled, and the girl was furious. Jensen found himself inhaling, his voice wavering when he spoke.
“I think…I think Jared has, um, mistaken me for someone else.”
They both turned to him, one with smoldering, out-of-nowhere hatred, and the other with a sassy frown. It was the girl who quirked her eyebrow.
“You’re Jensen, right?” Jensen nodded and the girl huffed. “Then there isn’t a mistake.” She thrust her hand out. “I’m Megan.”
Jensen smiled, mostly out of relief; Megan was everything that Jared described her to be and more. That, and she didn’t appear to want to hurt him. He shook her hand.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Megan laughed, and then Jared had his hands on the back of her wheelchair, looking away from Jensen.
“C’mon, Meg, let’s go.”
“Jared, what is your deal?”
She was hissing under her breath as Jared turned her around, and the look that Jared sent Jensen said that if Jensen knew what was good for him, he’d stay put.
So he did. He watched Jared wheel his sister away until the New York City crowd swallowed them up.
Whenever things got really bad, Jensen had a pair of pajamas that he liked to take refuge in.
They were red flannel plaid pants riddled with holes and a hoodie that was at least three sizes too big for him. Jensen remembered diving into them as soon as he got home before falling on the couch. The door opened; Jensen wasn’t sure how much time had passed before Steve had gotten home. He didn’t want to pick his head up and check.
Steve didn’t say anything because Steve recognized those pajamas. Instead, he nudged Jensen until he could slide in behind him, his arm resting over Jensen’s stomach. There were additional footsteps in the kitchen and Jensen curled in on himself.
“Tell him to go away.”
“I’m not going to do that.” Steve’s voice tickled his shoulder and Jensen sighed. He really didn’t want Christian there. “I’ll get you fifteen minutes, though. Chris! Pick up a couple of pizzas!”
The footsteps stopped, and they weren’t in the living room yet.
“What, right now?”
“Yup. I’m a high-maintenance boyfriend.”
Christian swore but he did walk out. Jensen almost smiled.
“I’ll bet he doesn’t come back.”
Steve pinched him.
“I bet he does.”
Steve was right because Steve was a know-it-all. Christian got a Hawaiian-style pie and Jensen had two slices. He took them into his room and crawled into bed; that was when he saw that he had new mail. He didn’t recognize the address, but the subject line said “Sorry.” Jensen clicked on it.
So, I don’t know what Jared’s problem was, but I think you’re right. He was definitely mistaken. Look, I think you two are really great for each other; Jared just made a mistake or something. I don’t know—he won’t tell me.
Jensen took another bite of his pizza and shut his laptop. He could hear Steve and Christian talking in the next room and he didn’t want to put in the effort to see if they were talking about him.
He pulled the covers up and shut out the rest of the world.
The thing about any kind of progress was that if it was worthwhile, it came with a price. For example, the use of a memory recollecting drug ran the risk of weakening the body’s natural ability to properly store events, making the medication mandatory, forcing the body build up a resistance so that the drug became an addiction.
Or…the use of a memory-cancelling drug could help Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder victims, but the simple repression of a memory may not be enough in some cases.
Everyone at work seemed to know to leave Jensen alone. Even Mike kept it down; Jensen reminded himself to buy him some booze on Christmas.
Jensen scribbled in his notebook. He could barely get through simple equations; he hated it. He didn’t understand how a first date could go so horribly.
When Jensen’s phone chimed, Mike fell off his chair.
“Fuck!” Mike scrambled back up. “Holy shit, that was loud.”
Jensen opened his mouth and then shut it, his teeth clicking together. His phone was at its normal volume, but the lab was so quiet that it must have sounded like a bomb.
“Sorry.” Jensen reached for his phone. “I’ll, uh, put it on vibrate.”
Jensen turned off the phone’s volume and saw that the new text message was from Jared.
The name wasn’t a welcome distraction anymore. It was an odd, stark presence. It made Jensen long for his pajamas. He opened the text and frowned.
Jensen wasn’t sure when Vicki’s tea house had become a Wild West saloon, but it sure felt like it when he pushed the door open. The sign said that the house was closed—and it was, except for four people.
Vicki had her arms crossed over her chest, and Jensen was pretty sure it was the first time he’d ever seen her truly angry.
“Five minutes. And I can kick you out whenever I want.” She glared at Jared and—Nurse Hotpants. “Got it?”
Jared nodded and Nurse Hotpants smiled breezily at Vicki.
“Thank you, Vicki. This won’t take long, I promise.”
Nurse Hotpants stepped forward, jingling. Jensen frowned and the man smiled and lifted up his pants to reveal two silver chains around his ankles, little bells twinkling with every step.
“The kids like ‘em.” He held out both of his hands, soothingly calm while Jared remained silent. “I’m Misha.”
“Jensen.” Jensen crossed his arms, leaving Misha’s hands hanging. “What do you want?”
Misha smiled again, not taking his hands away.
“I just want to help.” Jensen looked at Jared before glaring back at Misha, who seemed to be made out of peace and goodwill. Jensen let Misha take both of his hands into his grasp. “Take a deep breath—”
“Look, I’ve seen Meet the Parents.”
Misha kept on smiling, his thumbs rubbing circles into the inside of Jensen’s wrists.
“It’s not about your pulse.” Misha took a very drawn out and gradual inhale. “Have you ever met Jared before?”
“Yes. Yesterday was the first time.” Jensen met Jared’s eyes but had to look away; Jared kept glaring at him like he’d done something wrong. “I don’t know what your problem is, I’m going home—”
“Do you watch Top Chef?”
It was the first time Jared had spoken, the seemingly ridiculous question delivered gravely, like Top Chef was a surefire way to judge a person’s character. Jensen let Misha keep a hold of his hands as he glared back at Jared.
“I do. Why?”
Jared smiled, and it was dark, sad, making him look weirdly like he was about to be sick.
“Did you see the second to last episode in the 2009 season, the one that—”
“Steve Carlson won.” Jensen ground his teeth. “Yeah, I saw the finale. Steve is my roommate.”
Jensen didn’t call Jared an asshole, but if he didn’t hear it anyway, he was an idiot. Jared straightened his posture, like he was about to prove a point that no one could understand.
“Did you see the episode before the finale? Can you tell me what happened?”
“Yeah—” Then Jensen stopped. His eyes pulled away from Jared as he struggled to recall that particular episode. He remembered Steve winning, he remembered watching it at Steve’s mom’s house—but the week before—what happened the week before? “He won. I know he won. I…” Jensen pulled his hands out of Misha’s, rubbing his temples because he could feel a migraine brewing. “I can’t remember the second to last episode.” The harder he tried to remember, the worse his headache got until his head was spinning out of control and he felt like he was going to throw up his intestines. “I need…”
Jensen struggled to the doors and stumbled out onto the gritty sidewalk. His legs felt like lukewarm gelatin, but he managed to make it to the street. He sat down, his back cracking as his ass hit the curb. He breathed in deeply, praying he wouldn’t vomit.
He wasn’t sure how long he sat there with his head between his knees. One moment he was fighting vertigo and nausea, and the next he was being tapped on the shoulder. With that touch, it was like all the pain and overwhelming desire to throw up was muted. Jensen looked up, squinting against the flickering street lamp.
Jared held a cup in his hand.
“Vicki said this would make you feel better.”
Jensen took the cup and his fingers brushed against Jared’s for a split second. Jared quickly pulled his hand back and Jensen sipped his tea, too worn out to care. The tea did help, its ginger spice grounding hm. Jensen got up on shaking legs.
“I should tell her ‘thanks’…”
Jared shook his head.
“No, I wouldn’t.” His shoulders rose. “She and Misha are having a moment.”
“Oh.” Jensen raised his eyebrows, taking another sip. “About time.”
Jared laughed, then stopped abruptly as if he hadn’t meant to let it out.
The streetlight kept flickering and a fierce wind howled down the street, making them both shiver. Jared dug his hands into his pockets and walked away. He didn’t say goodbye or “later.” He just walked into the dark, leaving Jensen alone with Vicki’s tea.
There were days when it felt like Jensen was drowning, one drop of water in his lungs at a time.
“Good work.” JJ’s glasses slid down his nose and Jensen jumped, yanked out of the fog by the genius’s voice. “We’ll begin testing these right away.”
Jensen should have felt elated; he should have been sailing through the stratosphere. Instead, he felt hollow. He smiled.
“Fantastic.” He gathered up his papers, and he’d almost shut the door when he turned back. “Do you want to see the memory loss data—?”
“No.” JJ’s voice bit off the end of Jensen’s question. JJ sipped a diet Coke, his eyes bouncing over his iPad as he brought up chemical equations on the screen. “Let’s just keep focused on the current project, Jensen.”
Jensen hiccupped in an inhale.
He closed the door before JJ could shout back, “Call me JJ!”
When he got back to his lab, he stared at their latest antidepressant line up. Mike was babbling about something, talking to talk while he whizzed through his own equations. Jensen just watched him, watched him manage to charm and entertain and yet still be unafraid to show his true brilliance. Jensen swallowed hard and closed out of the antidepressant window on his computer—that was when his phone beeped.
How are you feeling?
It was from Jared. Mike kept laughing at a pun he’d made. Jensen’s fingers were numb as he hit Reply.
Steve was checking in on Jensen more; he’d make him too much food, just like his mother used to when she was worried. Jensen blinked and it was like he’d been transported home. He stared into a spiral of spaghetti. It was like he’d hit time’s fast-forward button.
He swirled the pasta around his fork, slipping it into his mouth. It was perfect. Everything Steve made tasted like a dream. Christian and Steve were eating with him, and Jensen remembered the conversation being about American Idol or some reality show he didn’t keep up with.
His phone chirped at three in the goddamn morning and woke him up from the first dreamless sleep he’d had in months.
“It’s getting worse.” Jensen frowned; he realized that Steve and Christian were still awake and in the living room. Jensen heard Steve’s voice, soft and honest. “But…I know him; if something happened, he would have told me.”
Jensen rubbed his eyes and reached for his phone as Christian cleared his throat.
“Maybe…maybe it’s just a phase or funk he’s in.”
Even Jensen could tell that Christian didn’t believe what he was saying. Neither did Steve, because Steve never bought bullshit. The bright light from Jensen’s cell phone stung his eyes, but he was just able to make out Jared’s very belated reply.
Jensen couldn’t sleep in his apartment, so he went to Central Park at six in the morning. It was Saturday, so he didn’t have to be anywhere, and he left a note for Steve on the refrigerator.
At that hour, the only things awake in the park were the ducks, fish, crazy joggers, and dog walkers…and Jensen. He picked a bench tucked away from the path and let his head roll back and his eyes close.
Jared was texting him again. Not like he used to; no pictures of weird or beautiful things, no funny observations. Only short questions that required a one-word answer. Nothing personal. Jensen breathed in deep, the morning mist refreshing his lungs.
The thing was, Jensen remembered that he used to be fun. Whenever he thought back to those times, years ago, it always struck him as strange, like watching a film. He remembered going out, partying; he remembered going to bars and having a good time.
Now the most he could have was one beer before he got sick.
Something cold and wet nudged Jensen’s knee and he jerked back to the present, his eyes flying open.
Big, brown eyes stared back at him. A dog. It was just a dog.
It had a collar that said “Sadie” on it. Jensen smiled a little, letting the dog sniff his fingers and cautiously petting its head once he deemed it to be friendly. The creature huffed, licking Jensen’s wrist merrily, making him laugh—
“Sadie!” Jensen’s brief, bright moment ended when Jared rounded the corner, sweating and a little winded. “There you are—”
Once he saw Jensen, he stopped short. Jensen hated that Jared could be so attractive and at the same time do…strange things that didn’t make sense in any universe. Jensen crossed his arms.
“I couldn’t sleep. I’m not following you or whatever, so if you’re going to freak out, just save it; it’s too fucking early.”
Maybe if Jensen had been better rested, he would have been more horrified at the words that spilled out of his mouth. Though rude, Jensen wouldn’t deny that they had an honest ring to them. Another dog tugged on its leash to lick Jensen’s fingers and that seemed to shock Jared out of his silence.
“I’m not going to freak out.” In the early hours of the morning, the two men shared a heavy, awkward silence. The other dog—Jensen got a glimpse of the name “Harley” on its tag—barked as if to break up the hush. “So you’re still not sleeping?”
“Not for the past couple years, no.” Jensen got up, giving Harley and Sadie each one more gentle pet on the head. “I’m starting to get used to it.”
Jensen wasn’t sure why it hurt so much. It wasn’t as if he’d been looking forward to dating; hell, he hadn’t even made his own profile. Technically, Jensen had gotten what he wanted at the start of the whole mess. He was still alone. So what if Jared was funny in texts and emails? So what if the idea of that first date had made Jensen more excited than he had been in a long time? Jared had some definite issues, or maybe he was just another lunatic in this godforsaken city.
A small part of him played devil’s advocate. Jared couldn’t be crazy; he was a physical therapist and he worked with children. If he was a psycho, he would have been fired ages ago. Jared was probably a super cool guy with great friends and family.
Maybe Jensen really was just a freak.
It took him a few minutes to realize that Jared had asked him a question.
Jared cleared his throat.
“I asked if you wanted to get coffee.” When Jensen didn’t answer right away, Jared motioned with his head to the path, his hands full with Harley and Sadie’s leashes. “It’s right on the way out.”
Jared wasn’t flirting. He wasn’t even smiling. If anything, he looked exhausted, and not from jogging. Jensen was sure that if he could handle looking at himself in the mirror long enough to actually see anything, he’d look tired too. He shrugged.
Jensen offered to walk one of the dogs, but Jared said that he could handle them; after that, they just breathed and walked, nothing complicated. Jared had been telling the truth; there was a small coffee vendor just outside of the park. They ordered and paid separately. It didn’t take long to finish and soon they parted ways without a word.
Jensen tried to figure out when his life had become so screwed up and weird.
He found that he couldn’t remember.